My family likes to hike on Christmas day each year. It's a sort of unspoken family tradition; we seem to have a lot of those. :) But to be honest, this one has never been one of my favorites.
Hiking is great in the spring and summer, but I've never been super excited about walking out into the cold when I could be curled up on the couch, in my pajamas, with a cup of home-made spiced tea. (Kudos to my talented Mama. :) So this year, the call came for us kids to get our shoes and coats on, and with a fair share of subtle foot dragging and mumbling, we complied. Although, I must confess, at least 60% of the silent complaining came from me. The kids didn't mind so much, 'cause they got to ride their bikes. Mine doesn't work super well. Grumble, grumble, grumble.
After we got started, I realized that I hadn't brought anything to cover my ears against the biting wind either. Bother it all. And I didn't want to put on my hood, because these random buttons on it like to get tangled in my hair. It was a beautiful, beautiful day, but I kept staring down at the tips of my shoes, trudging on in a bubble of grouchiness, while my siblings sped off ahead, and my parents talked and laughed behind me.
....Let me tell you something. I am almost convinced that there is a special little angel in heaven that God sends to talk to me when I'm like this. We are very well acquainted. He comes down with a flutter of friendly featheriness, sits on my shoulder, leans close to my ear and whispers.....
"Talia.....c'mon, that's stupid."
And it snaps me strait out of my melodramatic brooding act, and into a sheepish apology. There's nothing quite so humbling as remembering that God is with you all the time, and you just spent the last fifteen minutes complaining that you aren't the center of the world. :)
A friend had recently reminded me of the importance of praise and thanks, and how it changes everything around you so beautifully, so I gave it a shot, starting with thanks. My question was this: what things, that are absolutely necessary for me to have in order to be on this hike with my family, am I thankful for?
Well for starters, I have to have a family to hike with.....which I do. And I love them.
I also have to have a home to come back to, otherwise this would not be a cute little hike.
And in that home, I have a couch, pajamas, and spiced tea to come back to!
At first, it felt like a difficult exercise, but the more I added to the list, the easier it got, until I couldn't spit the words out fast enough to keep up with all the things I thought of. And it just kept building up and up, until the words turned from thanks to praise. You can't help it. When you know who it is who has blessed you with all these wonderful things, and you have His joy, it's almost impossible not to stop and just shout His praise at the top of your lungs. And surrounded by His beautiful creation,... with the sun on Pikes Peak, and a crystal clear sky, with only a few clouds rolling in over the mountains, and the rustle of the breeze filtering through the empty trees.... memories of all that He has done for me this year came pouring into my soul.
He has taught me so much. So, so much. I have begun to understand the true depth of His love for the first time I can remember, and I have learned what it means to find my value in Him and not the world. He has shown me that He truly is faithful, and he truly is trustworthy, and I really can come to Him and call Him Father,...Daddy. He has shown me that He is just, but that His mercy is also mine to take if I will accept it. I have learned that I am very human and imperfect, but that that doesn't make me any less dear to Him, and He will always come with me through my struggles. All this I knew before, but this year I experienced it. There is freedom in Christ, and he taught me what that means.
That hike was delightful.
So, yeah. It's been a rough year in a couple ways; both with real struggles, and basic, human irritations. :D And I'm sure you all have had your rough spots too. But take a moment, look back, and search deeply for what God has blessed you with. It might very well be overwhelming! :) And as we step into the New Year, 2015, know that He has much good in store for you as well. Start the year with the knowledge that you are loved, you are valuable, every day is a new start, and above all, remember that God is good. No matter what, He is in control, and He delights to bring good to His people.
All that to say, God BLESS you in the coming year! I hope that you will come to know Him even more than you ever knew possible, and that you are filled to the fullest with His joy!
And thank you all for being my friends. I am deeply thankful, beyond measure, for all of you. :)
Happy New Year!